Best 3D Modelling Software For Mac In 2022 – 6 Top Options

Fuse 1 and Fusion 360

Hot take – it isn’t hard finding 3D modelling software for Mac that can meet your needs. Most programmes have overlapping features and do the same things, but there is a stark difference in how easy they are to learn and use.

Our criteria for 3D modelling software are simple – software must have complete support for file types, intuitive controls, and automation tools that simplify workflows.

These three criteria ensure our time at the desk is efficient, and we’ve certainly learned the hard way, running dozens of 3D modelling programmes over the last decade.

This article reveals our top six programmes for Mac – consider it a cheat sheet for a great 3D modelling experience.

Let’s jump in!

What is 3D modelling software?

3D modelling software creates 3D digital representations of objects with human input. In additive manufacturing workflows, it creates the digital models that 3D printers eventually produce, so it is a critical tool.

CAD and 3D modelling software overlap, and while they are similar, there is a difference – with 3D modelling, you work with 3D shapes, while you work with 2D technical drawings with CAD. They overlap in additive manufacturing workflows because the line has blurred between the two programmes.

CAD excels for real-world functioning designs, while 3D modelling software is great for animations and virtual designs. Many features of 3D modelling are found in CAD, and this opens up exciting opportunities for 3D printing.

What is a mesh?

Before we jump into our list of the best Mac 3D modelling software, it’s best to briefly cover ‘mesh’ because our list references it a few times.

A mesh is a structural build of an object consisting of polygons. Meshes use reference points in the X, Y and Z axes to define shapes, vertices, edges and faces.

Simply put, a mesh contains data about a model’s structure, defining how the model is rendered on a computer screen. Mesh does not refer to the dimensions a 3D printer uses – these are separate measurements.

The best 3D modelling software for Mac

We recommend the following software in 2022:

1. Fusion 360

Fusion 360

Fusion 360 is a fully-featured 3D CAD platform that enables 3D modelling, CAD, CAM, CAE, and PCB in one solution. While AutoCAD emphasizes geometry-driven design (see below), Fusion 360 is superior for free-form models and creative use.

It lets you use direct, surface, mesh, and freeform modelling. Still, the most helpful compatibility is parametric modelling for changing an entire design when one-dimensional value changes, which slashes design time.

We have found Fusion 360 to be highly suited to real-world use cases, with performance simulations for models. A new tool is Automated Modelling, which automates the process of exploring and creating new design concepts.

Automated modelling is an exciting tool that uses simple definitions of what to connect and what to avoid to form 3D models.

We recommend Fusion 360 if you enjoy freeform more than geometry modelling – use it to go wild and bring your ideas to life.

2. AutoCAD


AutoCAD is one of the best all-in-one CAD and 3D modelling tools because it is the industry standard for 2D geometry. The 3D modelling features visualize 2D designs in 3D, letting you work in the best way for you.

Several types of 3D modelling are available in AutoCAD, including wireframe, solid, surface, and mesh (see Blender below). Your 3D models can use a combination of these technologies, and you can convert between them for control.

AutoCAD is straightforward, with most commands for 2D operations available to 3D models. For example, 3DROTATE can rotate models across the axis precisely like in 2D drawings.

AutoCAD’s wide range of editing opportunities lets you design 3D models easily, although it is not as proficient with 3D design as with 2D design. The 3D render environment is unsophisticated compared to Blender (see below).

3. Blender


Blender is an excellent 3D modelling programme that uses polygonal modelling, where polygons (or facets) form the ‘mesh’ – a layer. Assembling the polygons creates a 3D shape that you can print.

The beauty of this type of modelling is you can move polygons and deform them to create shapes, making it perfect for visualization.

Blender has a handy 3D Printing Toolbox, which gives you access to features like ‘Analyze’ (this identifies errors that can cause prints to fail) and ‘Clean Up’ (this triangulates distortions and fixes errors related to infills).

The upside to Blender is the detailed mesh editor, which lets you create 3D objects with exceptional ease. The downside to Blender is the CAD toolset is lacking, which is forgivable because this is not a CAD software programme.

However, you can export Blender files to AutoCAD (see above), so if you like designing with facets, you can design in Blender and then export files to AutoCAD.

4. Tinkercad


Tinkercad is a simple-to-use 3D CAD tool ideal for beginners. It’s owned by Autodesk (the same company that produces AutoCAD), with Tinkercad running in your web browser and providing a simplified toolset that covers the basics.

While it isn’t suitable for creating complex geometric shapes, this might be all you need for simple models with pre-set configurations. It also integrates with Thingiverse and MyMiniFactory – two of our favourite places for free 3D printer files.

The limitation of Tinkercad is the primitive shapes and modelling options, with no option to switch to polygons (facets) or advanced modelling techniques.

However, Tinkercad is the best for creating basic shapes and models. You can use universal keyboard shortcuts to bash out models in minutes and tinker with designs with scaling, grouping, mirroring and more.

It accepts STL, OBJ, and SVG file format imports, lets you import files to modify, and can share files in a few steps with other users.

5. ZBrush


ZBrush is perfect for making 3D models for video games, movies, and animation. It combines 3D/2.5D modelling, storing lighting, colours, orientations and depth information on the screen, giving you pixel control over designs.

For 3D printing, ZBrush supports all major 3D printing file formats, including STL, OBJ and VRML. It is mainly used alongside 3D scanning, where ZBrush comes in to clean (process and modify) artefacts effectively and quickly.

The ability to create high-quality models with exceptional detail is ZBrush’s central selling point. No other 3D modelling software for Mac lets you easily create texture and sculpted surfaces on any CAD model.

The downside to ZBrush is it doesn’t handle measurements, so while it will let you create incredible models, those models won’t translate into dimensions for 3D printing. This is a separate step that requires the 3D Print Exporter plugin.

6. Autodesk Maya


Autodesk Maya is a 3D animation tool that also excels at 3D modelling, with a powerful range of deformers for bending, sculpting, twisting, and manipulating models, letting you change your mesh and see how manipulations affect objects.

Controlling low and high-density mesh is easy, and the user interface and controls are strikingly similar to Blender. You work in a space where you can visualize your model, and there are pre-set tool layouts for working modes.

Maya has an intuitive user interface with a low learning curve, able to export .stl, .obj, and .3mf files. However, the range of tools is more suited to the intricacies of animation than 3D printing, so many of the features can go unused.

Maya is an outstanding 3D modelling tool for professional use, offering everything you need to produce complex objects.

Don’t limit yourself to one tool!

When it comes to 3D modelling tools, the more, the merrier – we recommend specifying the right tool for the job rather than sticking to one programme.

We recommend the following toolkit:

  • One parametric tool, i.e., Fusion 360, so you can type in the relative size and positions of different shapes to build your object.
  • One polygonal tool, i.e., Blender, so that you can manipulate your object’s edges, vertices, faces, and angles directly with clicks.

Where does slicing software come in?

Slicing software turns digital 3D models into G-codes (a generic name for a control language) that a 3D printer can understand.

G-codes contain instructions for 3D printers – so you can think of your STL file as the model and the G-code as instructions for making it.

Slicing software is not the same as 3D modelling software; you make 3D models in 3D modelling and CAD software. However, 3D printers do not understand the language without G-code – a language they understand.

Some 3D printer manufacturers have proprietary slicing software (e.g., Ultimaker PreFormMarkforged Eiger). If this is the case, stick to the official software for the best print results – otherwise, your physical print quality might suffer.

Find out more

Want to speak with an Additive-X specialist about 3D modelling and 3D printing? Contact the team at 01765 694 007, or you can